Thursday, April 7, 2016
4th Annual Arizona Spring Ride/Grand Canyon (April 9-10)
One of these things doesnt belong: A big orange bike in KLR territory: An Unforgettable Grand Canyon Adventure (4th Annual Arizona Spring Ride: April 9-10)
There I was, a KTM owner among dusty, angry KLRistas, riding where no motorcycle had been allowed for almost 2 decades. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
For the past 4 days, I've been riding with my (mostly) KLR-riding friends in Arizona as part of an Annual Spring Ride hosted by my friend, Jon.
On the 1st ride in 2013, I actually owned a KLR. Then I showed up on an Orange bike for the 3rd annual ride, and was pretty much welcomed anyhow. Pretty much
So, Jon hinted a couple of months back that he might be able to arrange a group motorcycle ride through the Grand Canyon, with camping right on the Colorado River. I was intrigued, of course. There's only one place that I know of that this can be accomplished. Regardless of where we were going to ride, I made plans to be at Jon's place near Paulden, AZ, on the afternoon of April 8.
So, on Friday, April 8th, I packed up my big KTM and left San Diego in the drizzling rain. So, thats the kind of weather I should expect, eh?
Joining me this year on his BMW 800GS was my favorite riding partner and drinking buddy DanRider (soon to be re-named DanRoughRider...but that's another story)
After miles and miles of asphalt, we met up with a couple of friends--Dave and his son, Clay, who I'd ridden in Baja with recently- in Prescott's Whiskey Row in the early afternoon. Very cool place. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp used to hang out there and we did what they did...except for all the prostitution and killing.
The 4 of us then mounted up and headed to the Gunsite facility where we'd arranged to camp. The place was buzzing with KLRs (not a Doohickey problem) and KLR riders. While reconnecting with old friends and soaking in the festival atmosphere, I could tell it was going to be a great time.
Some of my favorite people ever where there. Among others, there were the Corey's from Deming, Craig, Jeff from Napa, Chuck B and his wife Sondra, Phil, Mikey, James, Robert, Darrell and prolly a few others I've forgotten. (I've taken the liberty of using their names vs their ADV handles...you figure it out.)
Jon and his lovely bride Kayla (and son Sean) provided brats and all the fixings and we stayed up swapping stories around the campfire. I remarked to Chuck that I came out to AZ every year for the fantastic riding opportunities but truly enjoyed some even better camaraderie around the campfire. Because it was raining intermittently, we were worried that road conditions might keep us from riding some of the off-road portions, especially the Grand Canyon ride.
The next morning it was KSU at 8:30 where I counted 19 bikes and 20 riders...almost all on KLRs. Jon provided the ride briefing and we broke into 3 groups of riders.
First off was Williamson Valley Road between Prescott and Seligman. From Prescott up to about the Chino Valley turn-off, it's a well-maintained, paved road. There's a lot of suburban development around Granite Mountain and is actually more scenic than Highway 89. However, that all changes just to the north where the pavement ends and the scenery begins. This is just what I was hoping for. The rain had packed the dirt down a bit and left puddles and muddy stretches in parts. But overall, the 65-mile dirt road was very rideable and very scenic.
We stopped along the way for a quick break and were pleasantly surprised to be buzzed by a small airplane. Hey, thats not a KLR!
We reached Highway 40/Route 66 before noon and headed right to Westside Lilo's for chow where Jon had arranged a lunch deal with the owner so they were ready for us.
After a nice break where another KLR showed up, we were off to Peach Springs for fuel, last minute snack items and (hopefully) our permits.
As we were waiting at the general store there, Jon rode over triumphantly waving the permit. He'd done what other riders had tried and failed to do for years: Secure permission from the Hualapai Tribe for a motorcycle ride through the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. I never doubted Jon's ability! We were set to go.
The road from Peach Springs to the river was 18 miles of hardpack dirt with a few water crossings ...some about a foot deep and 50 yards or so long. But no one had an issue, even with the stretches of sand that we passed through. The ride through the canyons was as picturesque as it gets: Just incredibly stunning. I cant come up with enough adjectives to describe it.
Reaching the Diamond Creek area on the mighty Colorado was exciting. We rode our bikes right to the river and hopped into the brisk water. It felt great to soak in the cool Colorado after a hot day's ride. We all took photos of ourselves at the waters edge as we high-fived one another. What a great ride.
After enjoying the river, we stripped off our riding gear and set up camp. The mood was light as everyone shared stories of things they'd seen along the way. Quite a few photos were taken. I walked back to the water with some others and just soaked in the beauty.
Jon had asked a driver to bring a truck with a grill and more chow for us. We ate well and told stories until the stars came out.
That night, the sky couldnt have put on a better show for us. One by one we turned in and slept with the sound of the rapids lulling us to sleep.
I awoke the next day to a brisk morning before the sun was up. When the sun hit the surrounding hills, they lit up like someone had poured gold all over them. Just stunning.
Once again, Jon had a meal ready and prepared breakfast burritos for everyone. The riders began packing up and leaving in small groups. Dan and I stopped in Peach Springs where we said goodbye to the other riders and headed back toward San Diego.
But thats another, boring story involving lots and lots of cold, black asphalt.
Ride photos in no particular order: